“When technology integration is at its best, a child or a teacher doesn’t stop to think that he or she is using a technology tool — it is second nature. And students are often more actively engaged in projects when technology tools are a seamless part of the learning process” (Edutopia, 2007, para. 2). Thus, the classroom climate promotes a risk-free environment in which students feel comfortable and confident to select from a variety of technology platforms for research, design, and publishing their work. Creating this climate is risky for the teacher as a shift occurs from a teacher-driven to a student-driven learning environment. For some, it feels as if the teacher loses control of the classroom. However, the students are more engaged, accountable, and motivated to assume responsibility for their learning. Ultimately, the teacher and students become co-learners of knowledge, practices, and digital applications (Richardson, 2015).
A Peek at the Climate in a 21st-Century Classroom
A dramatic shift is occurring “in the way we work, the way we learn, and the way we communicate’ (Richardson, 2010, p. 11) in a 21st-century classroom. One example is a shift in the classroom layout and seating design. Gone are desks arranged neatly in rows to limit conversation and sharing of information which encouraged thinking and working in isolation. Today’s classroom must be flexibly arranged to meet the requirements of a lesson or activity and encourage collaboration (Educationrickshaw, 2017).
Similarly, the 21st-century work setting has changed in appearance and atmosphere to promote collaboration, communication, and creativity for employees. Allowing students flexibility in their work environment inspires learning by reducing physical obstacles in the classroom. My students are frequently surprised at the beginning of the day and during the day because I am known to reorganize my classroom layout to meet the needs of the students and lesson. If additional space is needed, students also work in the hallway. To maximize learning and outcomes, students need a less restrictive physical work environment.
A modern-day classroom must provide access to technology. Although students still need access to textbooks and other printed materials, they must also have access to technology, ideally a one-to-one device setting. Interactive whiteboards, iPads, and laptops are just a few resources which promote critical thinking and problem-solving in a digital age. Through hands-on learning experiences, students learn to select the appropriate and most effective technology resources to complete assignments (Walden University, 2010a).
At times, a 21st-century classroom must be quiet to complete tasks such as self-reflection, summative assessments, or independent work. However, it will also be noisy as it should be filled with exploration, creativity, design, and problem-solving through collaboration and communication with the teacher and peers (International Society for Technology in Education, 2016). Not all the noise can be monitored in decibels, as a 21st-century classroom will also have online noise (Educationrickshaw, 2017). Teachers must guide students in digital citizenship skills to navigate through the digital noise. By teaching students how to locate credible resources, to safely engage in online communication, and to responsibly publish to a global community (International Society for Technology in Education, 2016), students learn to manage this noise to enhance and broaden their learning experiences.
The changes in the classroom climate require flexibility, patience, and courage for the teacher, as well as a possible shift in classroom management. This new environment should help stimulate intellectual curiosity but may also seem chaotic. However, in doing so, the teacher will help “facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity” (International Society for Technology in Education, 2008).
Technology Skills for a 21st-Century Teacher
Before this class, I had limited knowledge of social media platforms and Web 2.0 tools. I had created my teacher webpage, used email for communication with colleagues and parents, integrated Google Classroom throughout my content areas, and implemented a variety of online platforms into my teaching practices. I felt as if I was fearless to try innovative ideas, as I am willing to try new ideas even though I may not be an expert (Richardson, 2015). However, through my learning experiences in EDUC 6710, I quickly realized that I had limited knowledge of emerging Web 2.0 tools. Using Twitter, creating and publishing to a blog, collaborating through social bookmarking, designing a wiki lesson with a screencast were terrifying experiences at first, but enlightening in the end. I feel as if I am a more innovative and empathetic teacher after this class.
To add, through the assignments and collaboration with my classmates, I have added a wealth of resources to my teacher technology toolbox. “And the asynchronous nature of these tools – the ability to interact with content when it’s convenient to do so – means that learning can take place anytime we’re ready for it” (Richardson, 2010, p. 150). I had known this, but this class offered the tools to make this occur authentically and organically. Technology enables teachers and students to learn anytime and anywhere. For example, using Twitter to connect with parents and a global community was eye-opening for me. “Its organizational structure makes is an effective tool for connecting with students and others online” (November and Mull, 2012, para. 1). Even after the completion of this class, I plan to continue to broaden my professional and personal learning communities using Twitter (International Society for Technology in Education, 2008).
Technology in a 21st-Century Classroom: Addressing Diverse Learner Needs
Over the years, teachers “looking for strategies to close the achievement gap and improve student learning have sought solutions involving new uses of technology, especially for students placed at-risk” (Darling-Hammond, Zielezinski, and Goldman, 2014, p. 1). Using Web 2.0 tools, teachers can create diagnostic, formative, and summative assessments to analyze student needs and growth (Walden University, 2010b). In particular, teachers can use ongoing formative assessments to monitor student progress through blogging, project-based learning, collaborative projects, and web-based assignments. “Students perform better and form stronger connections with material if they are able to understand what demonstration of knowledge will be expected of them. Portfolios, rubrics, and formative assessments can help meet this goal” (Goertz, 2014, para. 14). Ultimately, technology assists teachers with differentiating instruction based on students’ needs.
Integrating Web 2.0 Technology through S.M.A.R.T. Goals
Integrating technology into classroom instruction is critical to prepare students to thrive in the 21st-century workforce. This task can be daunting and overwhelming due to the ever-changing and ever-evolving digital age (Richardson, 2010). Students are very savvy with their technology skills but need guidance and support in developing appropriate digital citizenship skills. These skills are necessary for effective communication and collaboration in the workforce. Thus, digital citizenship, which includes online safety, communication, and research skills, will be a critical focus in my classroom throughout the upcoming school year. These lessons cannot be completed in isolation; collaboration with my grade-level colleagues and my guidance counselor will be necessary, as well as community members and organizations.
S.M.A.R.T. Goal 1: During the 2018-2019 school year, students will submit at least two blogs a month to address a social issue or problem relevant to fifth graders to determine ways to make a positive impact in the classroom, school, or community.
S.M.A.R.T. Goal 2: During the 2018-2019 school year, each student will take turns posting weekly updates to our class Twitter handle. By doing so, they will keep parents informed on classroom activities and events, while also enhancing their digital communication skills.
At the beginning of the year, students will need guidance on how to communicate and publish their ideas online. However, as the year progresses, students will be better prepared to create, communicate, and collaborate with an extended audience beyond the four walls of the classroom (Richardson, 2010). Hence, going forward, I plan to focus digital citizenship throughout my MSED program.
“The new 21st-century learners are sitting in [my classroom], ready to explore, design, and create. If [I] provide resources and transform their mindsets, powerful and effective technology integration will follow” (Blair, 2012, p. 13). As a result, critical thinkers and life-long learners will be prepared to make a positive impact by communicating and collaborating in the digital age society (Walden University, 2010a and 2010b).
Blair, N. (2012). Technology integration for the new 21st century learner. Retrieved on August 18, 2019, from https://www.naesp.org/sites/default/files/Blair_JF12.pdf
Darling-Hammond, L., Zielezinski, M., & Goldman, S. (20114, Septment). Using technology to support at-risk students’ learning. Retrieved from https://ed-policy.standford.edu/sites/default/files/scope-pub-using-technology-report.pdf
Edutopia. (2007, November 5). What is successful technology integration? Retrieved August 18, 2018, from https://www.edutopia.org/technology-integration-guide-description
Educationrickshaw. (2017, August 02). What does a 21st century classroom look, sound, and feel like? Retrieved August 18, 2018, from https://educationrickshaw.com/2017/08/02/what-does-a-21st-century-classroom-look-sound-and-feel-like/
Goertz, P. (2015). 10 signs of a 21st century classroom. Retrieved August 18, 2018, from https://www.edutopia.org/discussion/10-signs-21st-century-classroom
International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). (2008). Standards for teachers. Retrieved August 6, 2018, from http://www.iste.org/standards/standards/standards-for-teachers
International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). (2016). Standards for students. Retrieved August 6, 2018, from http://www.iste.org/standards/for-students
Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts and other powerful web tools for classrooms (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Richardson, W. (2015). From master teacher to master learner. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.
Walden University. (2010a). Walden’s technology proficiencies [ePortfolio materials]. Retrieved from https://www.taskstream.com/Main/main_frame.asp
Walden University. (2010b). Walden’s diversity proficiencies [ePortfolio materials]. Retrieved from https://www.taskstream.com/Main/main_frame.asp